A Guide to Onions


Onions may be the most common, universal ingredient used in cooking around the world. There are numerous varieties of onions, with certain types more suitable for certain types of cooking applications.

Onions can be divided into two basic categories:
Fresh onions are milder tasting onions, that usually have a thin, light-colour skin and have a higher water content.
Storage onions have a stronger, more intense flavour, and work best in dishes that require longer cooking times. When stored in cool, well-ventilated spaces, storage onions can last for several months.


Knob or spring onions feature rounded, white bulb bottoms with thick green stems, and are usually sold in bunches. Great for stirfries.

Green onions (sometimes referred to as scallions), usually sold in bunches, feature long, straight, bright green stems, and a small white base that hasn’t fully developed into a bulb. Great in salads, eggs, or other items that require mild flavouring.

Sweet onions are mild and creamy flavoured onions, and include Vidalia onions. Ideal for eating raw, in salads or in sandwiches.


Yellow onions account for 88% of worldwide onion product. Available year round, they are harvested in the fall and are the most widely available onion. The Spanish onion is a large variety of the yellow onion and is perfect for onion rings or for making onion soup.

Pearl onions are small, marble-sized onions with thin, paper-like skins, that are sweet and tangy in flavour. The skin of the pearl onion matches the colour of the onion itself and is available in red, white or yellow. Skins can be removed by dropping the onions into boiling water for 60 seconds and then pinching the root end to slip off the skin.

Red onions or Bermuda onions are sweeter and milder tasting than yellow onions. Due to their sweet, mild flavour, they are great for eating raw. The bright red colour also makes them particularly appealing in dishes that require a strong visual impact.

White onions are sweeter than yellow onions when served raw, but taste very similar to yellow onions when cooked. Used extensively in Mexican cooking.

All About Onions

Did You Know?

  • The sulfuric compounds in onions are what makes your eyes tear up when cutting into an onion.
  • There are approximately 105 billion pounds of onions produced each year around the world.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest onion ever grown came from Silsden, England, and weighed in at 10 pounds, 14 ounces.
  • Vidalia onions can only be considered real Vidalia onions if they are grown in Vidalia, Georgia.
  • Folklore says the thickness of an onion’s skin is a good predictor of winter weather conditions: a thin skin means a mild winter; a thick skin means a cold and rough winter.
  • Ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that the spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity.
  • Onions come in three colours: yellow, red and white, with 88% of worldwide onion crop being yellow onions (7% for red onions & 5% for white onions).
  • Libya has the highest per capita consumption of onions, at 66.8 pounds of onion consumed annually per person.
  • One serving of onions is approximately 45 calories.